In contemporary society, death is an uncomfortable and often taboo topic. When your friend’s relative passes away, you might struggle with your own feelings. It is normal to feel unsure what to say or do. To be supportive, keep the focus on your friend. He will probably forget the exact words you used, but he will remember how you made him feel.
Give Words of Sympathy
Sayings like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” might seem trite, but they are powerful to the person who needs to hear them, notes Rose Hill Memorial Park. These phrases show your friend that you know she is going through a tough time and you feel sympathetic. Don’t worry about being eloquent or coming up with just the right wording. If you are completely tongue-tied, simply give her a hug. Your friend needs to feel like you have her back.
Invite Your Friend to Talk
HelpGuide.org explains that while you might be afraid to mention the death, grieving people need the opportunity to let out their feelings. Ask him how he is doing or invite him to share a favorite memory of his relative. Listen quietly and avoid the urge to interject your own thoughts. Encourage him to open up, and be willing to listen to him tell the story over and over again.
Offer Practical Support
People who have lost a loved one are often surrounded by others who are willing to help. Yet asking what your friend needs is not always the best option, notes HelpGuide.org. She might have trouble thinking of what you can do or be afraid of becoming a burden. Instead, make specific offers. Examples include babysitting her little sister during the funeral, bringing her family a home-cooked dinner or even helping with the funeral arrangements. Try not to take it personally if your friend turns down an offer, but keep thinking of ways to help.
What Not to Say
While knowing what to say is important, knowing what not to say is even more crucial. HelpGuide.org points out that well-meaning comments can actually cause your friend more pain. Never tell your friend that you know how he feels, suggest that his relative is in a better place, tell him to be thankful, or imply that he should get over the death. Everyone grieves differently, everyone has individual religious beliefs, and everyone copes with death in his own way. Allow your friend to express his thoughts and emotions rather than demanding that he follow your train of thought.
Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.